Ask Cameron Votan to talk about his new restaurant, Greenglass, and instead he’ll talk about wine.
“It’s an acknowledgement that online wine is going to be huge,” Votan says. “Wine has been done before [on the internet], but not in the way that allows people to interact with it in the way they need to.”
Cameron and Jordan Votan are best known as the brothers behind Happy Boy, Spring Hill’s immensely popular modern Chinese restaurant. But their business interests go back further. Cameron was a co-founder of The Iconic, the online clothing retailer. More recently, he launched Spokenwine with Michael Larsen, Victor Garcia and Happy Boy’s Nick Turner, aiming to do a similar thing with wine.
Happy Boy is famous for its rambunctious Saturday-night charms, but perhaps the venue’s true appeal has been its wine list. Leveraging Spokenwine’s huge range of independent producers, Turner curates a short, rotating list to pair with the provincial Chinese menu.
Now, the Votans, along with Turner and Larsen, want to take it to the next level with Greenglass, a 60-seat restaurant in the heart of the George Street courts district. “Happy Boy has helped play that role,” Cameron says. “But Greenglass is us saying, ‘We want to do a more overtly wine-driven venue.’”
The location isn’t exactly obvious, hiding behind an anonymous door between The Grosvenor topless bar and a discount chemist, on the upper level of the old Duncalfe and Co building. Once upstairs, you walk down a darkened corridor past the kitchen and an anteroom before reaching the strikingly bright, open space of the restaurant proper, with its wine wall — “a visual wine list” — and tall windows overlooking a neighbouring courtyard. “It’s a great space. I didn’t want to make a song and dance about where we are,” Cameron says. “Like Happy Boy, people will come and find us if they’re into what we do.”
But what Greenglass is doing is different to its Chinese sibling. Along with the huge selection of wines — 110 on the wall with more in the cellar, all sourced via Spokenwine — the restaurant will peddle a menu anchored in French cuisine. It’s nothing fancy, though, with the most expensive items topping out at $15. “We thought, what better way to showcase some of the wines than to put them alongside some classic French dishes — steak frites or maybe a salmon confit,” Cameron says.
There will also be a cuisine du marché element, with dishes of the day paired with a wine of the day, available in half-glass serves. To that end, Turner will be coming down from Spring Hill to help manage the list (Jordan will continue to look after Happy Boy, with Brian Carpenter taking over Turner’s bar role).
For now, though, it’s a soft opening; at the time of writing, the restaurant doesn’t even have its own crockery. The current plan is to open Wednesday next week, serving breakfasts until 2pm. The crew will then work out the kinks before lunch and dinner come on-stream around the turn of the month.
“We really want this to be a sanctuary,” Cameron says. “A place where those people in the offices around here can get away, have a coffee, read the paper and eat a really beautiful meal. And for not much money. That’s the vision.”
Greenglass opens for breakfast at 336 George Street, Brisbane, on November 16. Lunch and dinner will follow in late November or early December.